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August 5, 2022
4 min to read

A $2,000 Vape Cam for Cops? Wait for the Clone

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Jim McDonald

We inhabit a surveillance state. You probably can’t make it through a single day outside your home without being captured on camera, and you certainly can’t turn on a computer without having your online activities monitored.

After 9/11, governments around the world began building out the massive security infrastructure that now extends to virtually every aspect of our lives. Justified by the need to catch terrorists before they could launch attacks, governments used rapidly advancing computer and electronics technologies—and huge “homeland security” budgets—to put every person’s movements, communications, and computer activities within their reach.

And we seem comfortable with it. Probably because the same technological marvels used to track us have also made our lives easier. Computers, wifi and webcams have made our work lives vastly more efficient, and powerful smartphones, Bluetooth devices and digital cameras that constantly shrink in size as they grow more capable have made us complacent about being listened to and watched.

And wow, are we ever watched! We have doorbell cams for homeowners, traffic cameras to catch speeders, nanny cams for concerned parents, game cameras for hunters, body cams to monitor police, GoPros for hands-free action, drones for remote video capture, and of course still and video cameras in the cell phones carried by just about everyone.

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We’re so accustomed to cameras being everywhere that we forget they are. And digital tech has made it possible to hide tiny cameras capable of capturing high-quality images in almost any size space. Yes, a camera can fit in a clock, a pillow or a teddy bear, to be sure—but also in pens, soda cans, vapes, garage door openers, or USB chargers.

Wait. . .back up. . .vapes? That’s right. Companies that specialize in selling surveillance equipment to police—like LENS Equipment (“formerly TeamIntel”) and LEA-AID—are selling a functional vape mod with a video camera and a built-in digital video recorder. All for the low price of $1,995.

It’s ugly for sure. It’s the plainest black box you’ve ever seen, with a typical modern sub-ohm tank mounted on top. The fire button is inexplicably located almost dead-center on one side, so you might get cramps trying to use it. But it’s real, and someone’s buying it.


The two-grand price might be a problem for you or me. But if you’re a gadget-loving police chief with a big budget and not much common sense, you’re gonna want a vape cam. You could hardly send an undercover officer to hang with those Puff Bar-huffing gang members on the south side without one. One look at the vape cam and their minds will be at ease: yes, this 40-year-old with a VCR-sized mod is our new friend. How do you do, fellow kids?

You’re laughing, but we came across this thing when Gregory Conley of the American Vapor Manufacturers Association tweeted a link to a budget request for a vape cam by a North Carolina sheriff’s office. So, whether you take it seriously or not, the sheriff of Wilson County thinks it’s just groovy, and made it part of his $11.9 million proposed budget.

There’s a serious story to be done about surveillance gadget companies gouging taxpayer-funded police departments with useless baubles like the vape cam, but that’s already been done a couple times by VICE. As you may have assumed, the surveillance camera companies have connections to police organizations.

Anyway, we’re not the place for a serious story about that. But we’ll be all over the coming price war on vape cams. After all, it’s just a matter of time till Chinese manufacturers have a fully functional clone available for about 80 bucks.

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Jim McDonald

Vaping since: 12 years

Favorite products:

Favorite flavors: RY4-style tobaccos, fruits

Expertise in: Political and legal challenges, tobacco control haters, moral panics

Jim McDonald

Smokers created vaping without help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and I believe vapers have the right to continue innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I’m a member of the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy

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